Pre-Race: Iowa

Hoping to Harvest KBM’s First Win in the Hawkeye State

Posted July 10, 2012

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 10, 2012) – Iowa Speedway in Newton is one of just seven tracks on the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule that the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) No. 18 Tundra, which has 16 victories since debuting in the series in 2010, has yet to conquer. After three straight top-10 finishes with Jason Leffler behind the wheel, the team seeks continued growth with its veteran driver in Saturday’s American Ethanol 200, as they aim to harvest their first win in the Hawkeye State and first Truck Series victory of 2012.

The California native found immediate success driving in the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Iowa and will be looking to do the same in his first trip to the .875-mile tri-oval as a competitor in the Truck Series. Leffler, who grew up racing on short tracks in his home state, finished third behind winner Brad Keselowski and runner-up Kyle Busch in the inaugural Nationwide Series race at the bumpy speedway. When the series returned to the Hawkeye State in 2010, Leffler once again scored a podium finish, with Busch capturing the victory, and fellow Sprint Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick coming home in the runner-up spot. Last season, Leffler’s 13th-place finish in the August NNS race was his best result in two trips to the Newton track.

Leffler isn’t the only member of the Shore Lodge Racing team that took an immediate liking to the Rusty Wallace-designed short track; crew chief Eric Phillips visited Victory Lane at Iowa in the inaugural Truck Series race. Phillips’ driver, former Truck Series champion Mike Skinner, dominated the field, leading 180 of the 200-lap race. Brian Ickler piloted KBM’s No. 18 Tundra for the veteran crew chief each of the last two seasons, mustering two top-15 finishes.

The veteran driver-crew chief tandem, each who has experienced prior success at the challenging course cradled in the confluent cornfields of Central Iowa, will be working together Saturday in an effort to bring home the victory and cross another track off the KBM hit list.

Jason Leffler, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:

You experienced immediate success in the Nationwide Series at Iowa, is there something you like about the track?
“I have always run well there. I finished third the first two times there -- behind some good drivers like Kyle (Busch), (Kevin) Harvick and (Brad) Keselowski. We had two other good runs that were spoiled by some problems -- blew a motor once and a right front tire another time. It is a slick short track, so you have to be aggressive, but it also takes a little bit of finesse to get around there. For as new as the track is, it drives a lot like an old short track. It’s definitely a fun place to race.”

Is there a trick to getting through the bumps in Turn 1?

“The bumps seem to change every year, so I don’t know if you would call it a trick, but there is definitely a technique of getting through them and they are something you have to deal with. This time of year it is going to be hot and slick, so your truck has to have good forward bite and at the same time be able to turn through the center.”

Do you enjoy the atmosphere at Iowa?

“The Midwest fans -- especially up in that region -- always seem hungry for NASCAR. They support that place and the track does a really good job of promoting it -- it’s really fan friendly. The track knows who is important and that’s the people who are paying the bills. There are always a lot of people tailgating before and after the race -- that is really fun to see. I’m looking forward to participating in the autograph session on Saturday afternoon and being able to interact with all of those great fans.”

Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:

Is Iowa similar to any other track that you’ve been to in your career?

“It’s really its own track and presents different issues than other places we go. It has some characteristics of a couple places, everybody wants to compare it to Richmond, but Turns 1 and 2 are kind of their own animal. There are so many bumps that it makes it rough getting into Turn 1 and then it is really tight coming off of Turn 2. Turns 3 and 4 are similar to Richmond, but a little bit tighter.”

What will be the biggest challenge at Iowa this weekend?

“It’s really hard to get a driver comfortable getting into Turn 1 and then still allow them to be able to turn through the center. We haven’t been there yet this year, but it seems like every year that we go back the bumps in Turn 1 seem to get worse. Goodyear has gone through a couple different generations of tires at Iowa and we’ll be on a new tire again this time around after the Nationwide guys had some tire issues in the spring.”

Jason Leffler’s No. 18 Shore Lodge Tundra:

Chassis KBM-7: Chassis KBM-7 has collected three wins, a runner-up and five top-10 finishes over six career starts. The Toyota has only seen the track once so far in 2012, an eighth-place finish with Leffler behind the wheel in the March race at Martinsville (Virg.) Speedway. It is also the same Tundra that Brian Ickler qualified seventh and finished 14th with in last year’s Truck Series race at Iowa.

Notes of Interest

Jason Leffler @ Iowa Speedway:

  • Finished third in the inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race in 2009 and followed it up with another third-place finish in the 2010 NNS event
  • Qualified in the top 10 for each of his last three NNS starts
Jason Leffler 2012 Camping World Truck Series:
  • Ranks in the top five of several NCWTS Loop Data categories this season: third Fastest on Restarts (8.571 Average Rank), fourth Fastest Late In a Run (8.000 Average Rank), fifth Fastest Green Flag Speed (6.800 Average Rank) and fifth Fastest Early in Run (6.600 Average Rank)
  • Has finished eighth or better in each of his last three starts, including a season-best fourth-place finish in the N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (5/18/12)
Jason Leffler Camping World Truck Series Career:
  • In 53 career starts, has accumulated one win (Dover ’03), 10 poles, 20 top-five and 33 top-10 finishes
  • In 2002, captured a NCWTS series-leading eight poles, ranked second with 494 laps led and registered 11 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes en route to a fourth-place finish in the final series standings
Jason Leffler NASCAR Career:
  • In 292 career NNS starts, has registered two wins (IRP ’07 & Nashville ’04), eight poles, 42 top-five and 106 top-10 finishes
  • Finished in the top 10 in the final NNS standings for five consecutive seasons (‘07 – ’11)
  • Captured the pole for the inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in 2001; has at least one pole in each of NASCAR’s top three series
Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Toyota Tundra:
  • Iowa Speedway is one of just seven tracks on the 2012 Truck Series schedule that the team has not been victorious at since its inception in 2010 (Daytona, Kansas, Las Vegas, Michigan, Pocono, Rockingham)
  • Brian Ickler qualified seventh and finished 14th in last year’s Truck Series race at Iowa
  • The last time that the No. 18 Tundra was in action, Jason Leffler posted an eighth-place finish at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (6/28/12)
  • After eight races, resides 14th in the 2012 NCWTS owner’s point standings – improved 12 positions over the last six races
  • In 2011, ranked first in Truck Series wins (8) and second in Owner’s Points (920), Laps Led (878), Fastest Laps Run (448) and Top-Five Finishes (16)
  • Three different drivers won a race in the No. 18 Tundra in 2011 - Kyle Busch (series-leading 6), Kasey Kahne (1) and Denny Hamlin (1)
  • Since debuting in the Truck Series in 2010, the team has compiled 16 wins and 34 top-five finishes over 57 starts
  • In 2010, became first team since the NCWTS originated in 1995 to win the Owner’s Championship in its inaugural season
KBM Truck Chief Made his “Way” from Iowa:

Mitch Way, truck chief and front tire carrier for KBM’s No. 18 Tundra, is a native of Davenport Iowa. A successful dirt track racer, with over 200 feature wins to his name, Way moved to Charlotte in 2006 to pursue a career in NASCAR. The 31-year-old has been with KBM since its inaugural season in 2010, contributing to 16 Truck Series wins and an Owner’s Championship. SPEED will air a feature on KBM’s truck chief during this week’s setup show which airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday. Way is joined on the No. 18 over-the-wall crew by Sibley, Iowa’s Mike Janssen, who serves as rear tire changer.

The Phillips File:

Crew chief Eric Phillips called the shots for Mike Skinner’s dominating win in the inaugural Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway in 2010. Skinner captured the pole and led 180 of 200 laps en route to victory. The last two seasons, Phillips has guided Brian Ickler to top-15 finishes at the .875-mile tri-oval.

Kyle Busch Motorsports 2012 NCWTS Box Score:
Date Site Driver Start Finish Laps Laps Led Status Owner Pts/Pos Winnings
2/26 Daytona Leffler 6th 36th 17/109 0 Accident 8/36th $9,535
3/31 Martinsville Leffler 12th 8th 250/250 0 Running 44/19th $9,225
4/15 Rockingham Leffler 4th 34th 19/200 0 Engine 54/26th $6,750
4/21 Kansas Leffler 2nd 18th 165/167 5 Running 81/24th $11,025
5/18 Charlotte Leffler 5th 4th 134/134 0 Running 121/20th $15,825
6/1 Dover Scott 17th 13th 147/147 0 Running 152/18th $11,350
6/8 Texas Leffler 18th 6th 167/167 0 Running 190/15th $14,825
6/28 Kentucky Leffler 18th 8th 150/150 0 Running 225/14th $11,820

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